It takes one to know one

It takes one to know one is an idiom that originated in the United States. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying it takes one to know one, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

It takes one to know one is a remark one makes when criticized by someone who has similar failings. Often, it takes one to know one is used as a defense against a vague insult. For instance, if your neighbor says that you are an idiot, you may reply it takes one to know one. Occasionally, it takes one to know one is used as a reply to a compliment. For instance, if your neighbor says that your are a genius, you may reply it takes one to know one. Generally, the expression it takes one to know one is considered a juvenile retort; it is mostly used by children. The phrase came into use in the 1920s in the United States, though its specific origin is unknown.


Russian President Vladimir Putin shot back after US President Joe Biden described him as a “killer”, saying that “it takes one to know one.” (Times of India)

“The fact that he thought of that on that prompt shows this young man not only knows his history but also recognizes difference-makers, and it takes one to know one,” his dad, Jay Suire, said in an interview with his son. (Daily Advertiser)

Morrison responded like a child putting his fingers in his ears, going “lalalala” then saying something along the lines of “it takes one to know one”. (Canberra Times)

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